Woodbine, Ontario government reach agreement to continue live horse racing
Jockey Justin Stein, right, and horse Strait of Dover cross the finish line to win the running of the 153rd Queen's plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on Sunday, June 24, 2012. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
TORONTO -- The Ontario government and Woodbine Entertainment Group have reached an agreement to continue live horse racing at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks for the next two years.
Woodbine Entertainment Group had scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning at Woodbine Racetrack to divulge further details.
The sport's history in Ontario came into question in June when Nick Eaves, the president and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, said the Queen's Plate, North America's oldest continuously run stakes race, was in serious jeopardy.
Eaves made the remark following the Ontario government's decision to end the lucrative slots at racetrack program at the end of March 2013.
The revenue-sharing agreement gave racetracks a cut of the slot profits, amounting to $345 million annually.
Eaves had said he couldn't see how horse racing in Ontario could survive without the revenue-sharing program.
But Jim Lawson, Woodbine Entertainment Group's chairman of the board, said the agreement gives the industry a short-term fix.
"This long-awaited agreement offers stability while WEG and our partners in horse racing work with government towards a long-term sustainability solution," Lawson said in a statement. "It's clear to us that this is only a short-term fix, and sustainability can only be achieved by the integration of horse racing into the province's gaming strategy.
"As the largest operator of horse racing in Canada, WEG is committed to working with the government to achieve this critical outcome."
As a result of the agreement, the Queen's Plate is assured of being run through the 2014 edition.
Lawson added work on a long-term solution will continue.
"Our challenge is to now build a new, sustainable model for horse racing in Ontario that continues to set the standard internationally," he said. "I'm confident that working with our partners in industry and government, we can achieve that goal.
"Our industry deserves nothing less."